I’m incredibly lucky to have been put on skis as soon as I could walk. My parents taught us to ski (which explains a lot ha ha) in Valloire, France and being a French speaking family, we grew up skiing with local friends and naturally pushing ourselves to keep up. In the hunt for change and more challenging skiing, we made the move to Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise.
As a kid I remember dreaming of being a ski racer but the closest I got to racing was a dry slope inter school competition and a pair of black padded Hestra racing gloves that I pretty much wore to bed. After leaving school, I worked as a ski-man in SkiSet, Sainte-Foy and towards the end of the season, inspired by John ‘Sondre’ Langridge, I decided to try my hand at telemark skiing.
I’d be lying if I said I immediately fell in love with it… I absolutely hated it for the first couple of hours, which were spent on my face, but it didn’t take long before that started to change. There was something new about it. It was different, free-er and much, much more exciting.
I of course attended, with all the wrong kit, and tried my very hardest to not embarrass myself too much. Aged 19, I had never raced before, I had never even been in gates before, but there I was, in my Skins base-layer (I didn’t own a catsuit), on cable bindings, with 100 underfoot Line Prophet twin-tips. Needless to say, I looked like a proper tool but what did I care. This fat little boys dream of becoming a racer seemed to be coming true, just as I had started to forget about it.
Following the training week, I was invited to attend the British Championships (January, 2014). I finished second overall as a junior and I was made a development team member, much to my surprise. I also made a great friend in Jaz Taylor, who showed me the ropes. The ones she could reach anyway… She’s only small…
For those of you who’ve made it this far (thank you) I am referring to a time, many moons ago, when I was entering my second year at Nottingham University and not so artfully balancing studies and sport. Following the British Champs, I was allowed to race as a Wild Card at a few World Cups and the Junior World Championships at the end of the 2013/14 Season. I had some decent results and was steadily improving but I had contracted a horrible and very expensive case of gate fever.
To those of you unfamiliar with the condition, it is a psychological illness that manifests in an unhealthy obsession with anything ski racing related. It did however cause me to attend the 2014/15 British Championships in Rauris, where all the hard work seemed to pay off. I finished 3rd, I was awarded World Cup Team status, and I was made GB Team Captain, a position I’m still very proud to hold today.
Funnily enough, all those weeks of skiing had taken a toll on my studies and I found myself with three essays, the London Marathon, a dissertation and 4 end-of-year exams to do in an impossibly small amount of time.
A lot of begging, a full on burnout, and as many extensions later, I was awarded a 2:1 and my BA Geography Degree (September, 2015), along with the masters students. Better late than never eh.
Upon leaving uni, I qualified as a personal trainer to help fund my competing, set myself some pretty big goals, and committed to the World Cup Circuit for 3 years fulltime and me oh my, what a ride it’s been…
- Surgery to remove a branch of the sural nerve irreparably damaged – 7 weeks
- Good start to the career… gulp
- Sternoclavicular ligament damage – 2 weeks
- First World Cup Top 20 – 18th in Sprint, 9th in Parallel, SUI
- Ulnar collateral ligament damage (skiers thumb) – 3 weeks
- Career best – 17th NOR
- 9 pairs of skis skied, 3 manufacturers, 6 broken skis
- Career best – 15th SUI Classic
- 2 days before the first world cup of the season…
- Avulsion fracture and ligament damage – right ankle, calcaneonavicular coalition complications
- Misdiagnoses – skied on it. 2-month setback.
- 29 November 2017-today… will probably never be the same. The things we do for love…
- 18th USA, Sprint
- 9th USA, Parallel
- Correctly diagnosed & rest of the season off
- Concussion – 3 weeks
- Only 8 days on snow due to the ankle injury and concussion
- Tendonitis – 4 weeks
- 12th ITA – Career & GB men’s record in Sprint
- 2x binding malfunction – multiple haematomas – 2 Weeks
- Broken boots – Changed
- Ulnar collateral ligament damage (skiers thumb)… the other thumb… it’s all about balance you see – 4 weeks
- 17th FRA
- Boot & Bindings changed… again
- World Champs – 9th in Parallel
- Lots of my best skiing but lacking consistency cost me
My journey in this sport hasn’t been an easy one, but it has been a life changing one.
I’m not sure I recommend it, but if you get the chance to spend 21 months of a 36-month period training with, competing through and rehabbing injuries, whilst studying the mental and physical components of success, and working to fund your pursuits and build a business, you’ll undoubtedly force some positive adaptation.
I’ve been asked, “How have you not quit?” more times than I can remember. So why haven’t I? Why would someone subject him/herself to that level of suffering, in a sport where we’re not paid a penny, not Olympic, and almost entirely self-supported?
For one beautifully simple reason… I realised what it does to you.
My raison-d’être for competing changed because of what I had overcome. Skiing became about more that just seeing how far I could go. I evolved and then it evolved. I began to ski to understand success, in order to teach it and in doing so, I found my purpose.
I’ve had to work relentlessly just to catch up to those I compete against. I came into the sport late for a ski racer, let alone for someone who’d never competed in winter sport and I knew that I had to think differently. I had to make up for my lacking experience in other ways, so I chose to become the fittest mental and physical version of myself possible.
I read, watch and learn about the mind and the body every single day. I consciously combine all that studied knowledge, my own experience, and the incredible information absorbed from the best athletes, coaches and medical professionals that I’ve been lucky enough to work with, in order to understand the trainability of the human machine.
I now use this knowledge to help others understand that passion doesn’t have to be “just a hobby”. That pursuing something until you are so extraordinary at it that you can build a life from it, is a far healthier and happier mentality than making decisions based upon fear, and that even if you can’t realise your initial goal, it’s highly likely that in the pursuit of it, you’ll find your place.
In summary, I mentor success through sport.
I plan on becoming the best in the world in my sport, but whatever happens, telemark skiing has given me a purpose greater than myself.
Until I feel that I could learn and grow more from other pursuits, you’ll be able to find me at the World Cup start line. Peace.